Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Dr Laura Hennessy in her PPE at Portlaoise Hospital

A JUNIOR doctor at Portlaoise Hospital will miss her own wedding, as she joins other frontline staff in the fight against Covid-19.

Senior House Officer Dr Laura Hennessy was due to get married in July. Like so many other people, she had to postpone her best-laid plans due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Instead of looking forward to her wedding day, she has been working an extra rota at the hospital since late March, together with other staff, which has more than doubled their on-call shifts for the past three months.

Laura has taken it all in her stride and has a cheerfully pragmatic approach to the unexpected disruption of her wedding plans. She says: “Instead, I’ve been working in the hospital and enjoying the countryside of Laois, as I am not allowed to be anywhere else!”

Laura describes her work at Portlaoise Hospital in a blog piece for the ‘A Day in the Life’ series, which is published online by the HSE. Outlining her daily work, she says:

“I am a Medical Senior House Officer in Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise. I’m on my six month rotation in Portlaoise, as part of my St James’s training programme and I’m also the current co-lead NCHD (Non-Consultant Hospital Doctor). Today, Sunday, I am working a 24- hour shift but my shifts can vary from 8/12/22/24 hours.

The Sunday 24-hour shift starts at 11.30am so I try to sleep in that morning to bank some hours for later.

I get up, have my breakfast, pack my food for my shift and I am out the door. When I get to the hospital, I head straight to the lockers where I change into my scrubs, pop on my stethoscope and get my bleep from reception.

At this point, I join my team that has been on duty for the previous 24 hours. They are still doing the ward rounds, with the consultant, of the new patients who have been admitted on their shift.

I then sort through what jobs need to be done and what patients are to be discharged etc. following investigations, allowing last night’s on-call team to get home for some well-deserved rest.

An Emergency Department Covid-19 Streaming Process is currently operating in the hospital, where presentations to the ED are pre-triaged and streamed into ‘suspect Covid -19 related’ or ‘non Covid -19 related’ patient pathways.

I go to the ‘suspect Covid -19’ to see what patients the emergency doctors have referred to me and continue to do this throughout my shift. It involves a lot of ‘donning’ and ‘doffing’ PPE, thankfully something that we have a very good supply of here.

I am also washing my hands so often that they feel stiff after a while but it is so crucially important that we don’t slack in this.

Working in the Emergency Department and throughout the hospital, in general, there is a good sense of camaraderie amongst the staff, from nurses, doctors, healthcare assistants, porters, cleaners, kitchen staff, administration and reception, we are very much all in this together.

While we have “buddies” to make sure our PPE is on or to help bag the bloods after they’ve been taken, there is a true sense of the bonds with our colleagues being strengthened since we have had to face the virus here at MRHP.

Whilst today I’m the SHO covering the ‘Covid query’ patients, there’s another SHO who is dealing with the non-covid patients in a separate area. Not to forget the intern who is also there during the day on the weekend, the registrar and the extra medical SHO and registrar we have at night as well.

We have all taken on an extra rota, which has more than doubled our on-call shifts since late March, so that we are best prepared for whatever comes our way. And we have been very lucky to have the staff. It can be really busy at times but we have a great team here.

I do try to get some rest if time allows during my shift in the on-call room. And of course, it’s very important to get proper food breaks along with the tea and snacks that usually happen on a night shift!

Ireland has done amazingly well to be where we are now. But it hasn’t been without sacrifices on all our parts.

I’ve missed out on my wedding which was due to be next month and some exams I was eager to get over with.

Instead, I’ve been working in the hospital and enjoying the countryside of Laois as I am not allowed to be anywhere else! I hope people continue to be strong and remember the importance of handwashing, respiratory hygiene and social distancing.

I, like many others, would love to hug my parents and grandparents, but for now the best thing I can do to protect them is to follow the guidance from the government. It would be terrible for us to give the virus a chance of resurgence and us only to go back to where we started.

So many lives have already been saved by the measures everyone has taken and people should be proud of their efforts. I hope the reports of low cases and deaths from Covid-19 will encourage people to hold firm, wear masks where appropriate and embrace our new normal with the same resilience that we approached the virus earlier in the year. Keep up the good work!”

The ‘A Day in the Life’ series published online by the HSE, which includes pieces by other staff members at Portlaoise Hospital, can be accessed here:




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